Three of China’s top airlines have placed orders for almost 300 new Airbus aircraft, a big boost for the European manufacturer in the country.  

Within the space of a few hours, China Southern, China Eastern and Air China announced orders for a combined 292 A320 Family aircraft. 

China Southern placed an order for 96 A320neo aircraft, worth over $12 billion at list prices, China Eastern signed for 100 A320neos worth $13 billion, while Air China ordered 64 A320neos for itself plus 32 for unit Shenzhen Airlines.  

Airbus said in its own statement that the orders demonstrate “the positive recovery momentum and prosperous outlook for the Chinese aviation market.” 

“These new orders demonstrate the strong confidence in Airbus from our customers,” commented Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer and Head of International. “We commend the excellent work by George Xu and the entire Airbus China team as well as our customers’ teams for having brought to conclusion these long and extensive discussions that have taken place throughout the difficult COVID pandemic.” 

The orders come as a major win for Airbus against rival Boeing, which is still waiting for Chinese authorities to approve the Boeing 737 MAX’s return to service. China’s regulator grounded Boeing’s latest narrowbody jet in March 2019 after the two fatal Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.  

Adding to Boeing woes in the country was a report that China Southern had removed over 100 737 MAX aircraft from its near-term delivery schedule.  

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China Southern Airlines drops more than 100 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from its near-term delivery plan.
 

Airbus said that as per the May 2022, over 130 customers have ordered over 8,000 A320neo family aircraft. The manufacturer has delivered more than 2,200 A320neo family aircraft since it entered into service six years ago.  

The orders come as Asia slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Traffic recovery in the region is lagging behind other parts of the world due to tougher travel restrictions, notably in China. In April 2022, domestic traffic in China was 80% down compared to 2021, according to IATA figures.  

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China’s Big Three airlines – China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, and Air China – saw a modest increase in passenger traffic in May 2022.
 

 China Southern said the new aircraft will increase its capacity by 13%. China Eastern also intends to use the new aircraft to replace older planes and boost its capacity. Air China said the new aircraft will boost its capacity by around 10% and lower its operating costs.  

China Southern and China Eastern’s A320neos will be delivered between 2024 and 2027, while Air China’s new Airbus aircraft will arrive between 2023 and 2027 and those for Shenzhen will be delivered from 2024 to 2026.